Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A noisier EU Quarter in Brussels

Since 6 February, planes have been rerouted from their route over the leafy suburbs of Flanders east of Brussels to straight over the EU quarter. People in the eurobubble say it's another example of Belgium dumping problems on people who cannot vote in general elections.

Today, members of the European Parliament rejected a European Commission proposal that would have allowed the European Union to overrule local authority decisions on the banning of flights at certain times.

The vote was only a rubber-stamping of a decision taken back in January to reject this part of the airport noise proposal. However, some MEPs saw this week's vote as an opportunity to bring up an airport noise issue closer to their hearts – new flight plans in Belgium that send planes from Zaventem airport straight over Brussels city centre and the EU quarter.

Since 6 February, planes taking off from Zaventem have been using a new route ordered by the Belgian federal government. The ‘Wathelet plan' – named after its designer Melchior Wathelet, Belgium's secretary of state of environment, energy, mobility and institutional reforms – has rerouted 80% of flights that used to fly over sparsely populated areas of Flanders east of Brussels. One hundred flights a day are now flying at low altitude through Brussels city - straight over the EU institutions.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The greenest government ever?

British Conservatives have among the worst voting records in the European Parliament on climate issues, according to a new analysis.

In May 2010, David Cameron, the UK's prime minister, made a bold claim. As he finalised talks on forming a governing coalition with the Liberal Democrats, he told an audience of civil servants that his would be “the greenest government ever”.

It is a claim that Cameron may have come to regret. Over the past four years, the quote has been repeatedly thrown back at him by environmentalists upset over a variety of issues – whether cuts to renewable energy subsidies or fracking for shale gas. Yet Cameron has maintained that his government is doing more to combat climate change than any previous UK government, and that the UK is playing a more constructive role in the climate fight than other European countries.

But green campaigners say this claim is hard to justify when you look at the voting record of Conservative members of the European Parliament. An analysis by campaign group CAN Europe published this week, scoring MEPs based on how they voted on ten key pieces of climate legislation over the 2009-14 term, ranks the British Conservatives among the worst parties in the Parliament for climate action.